My Mom Friends Don’t Know The Real Me
I recently met up with a mom that I met on an app called Peanut. The app is billed as “Tinder for moms,” and as I never ventured into online dating it simultaneously terrifies and intrigues me. I’m not very active on it, but I logged in recently to find a message from a woman who had moved from D.C. like me and had a daughter a few months older than my son. I decided to take a chance and we spent a hot morning strolling around the Wildflower Center.
She was friendly and engaging, but I spent much of our playdate trying to keep my son from falling into the pond or stealing snacks or explaining why he couldn’t hoard all the trucks in the sandbox.
Pretty typical for a morning with an 18-month-old, of course. But I left wishing that I had been able to give her more than just half of my attention, so that I could better see if there was potential for a real friendship.
When my husband and I decided to move from the Washington, D.C. area to Austin back in 2014, I was nervous about making friends. I was 28 and hadn’t really had to worry about making new friends since college. We definitely floundered at first—it’s a lot harder to make friends when you can’t just wander down the hall of your dorm with a bottle of Andre—but after a couple of years we established some good friendships.
Then a few friends moved away, I left my job, we had our son Shepherd, and suddenly we felt a bit isolated again since none of our new friends had babies. I joined a newborn parenting group and bonded with the other new moms, but once maternity leaves were over and we didn’t have a weekly scheduled meeting day, it got harder to stay connected.
So I dove into activities like Gymboree and baby music classes, not so much because I want my son to be the next Mozart, but because I was desperate to fill the daytime hours and meet mom friends. And I did meet some lovely women. Women who are always up for outings and playdates, who make some of the long days feel shorter, and who can commiserate and share advice when my son refuses to nap or eat vegetables. I’m so grateful for that.
Despite the time we’ve spent together, though, I still have this nagging feeling that my “mom friends” don’t know the real me. When we meet up, most of the conversation revolves around our kids, understandably, and even then it’s difficult to have a complete conversation.
I always have to leave during someone’s thought to chase after my son, and by the time I get back I’ve missed the story and we’re onto another topic.
It’s hard to talk about anything in depth when you’re not fully present, both physically and mentally. I can’t be my usual sarcastic self when I only hear pieces of the conversation. I don’t go into much of my family history or topics I’m passionate about or even my strong opinions on Jax and Brittany’s relationship on Vanderpump Rules. I’m in “mom mode” and that becomes the overwhelming feature of my personality.
I’m always worried about what kind of impression I’m making on people, and with mom friends there’s the added fear that they’re judging my parenting. Am I too laid back? Too much of a helicopter mom? Do I have too many plastic toys? Is my snack choice healthy enough?
Deep down I know no one really cares that much, but the fear of judgment can be crippling and prevents me from showing my true self.
I wish I could spend more kid-free and even on-one-one time with some of my mom friends, since I know as an introvert that’s what I need to feel comfortable and build a deeper friendship with someone. I don’t know if my mom friends feel the same, though, or how I fit into their lives. Am I just someone to pass the time with so our toddlers don’t drive us crazy? Once our kids are in preschool and we don’t need each other as much, will we remain friends?
This time with our young children is fleeting, but I don’t want my friendships to be fleeting too.
I hope that as time goes on I’ll be able to share more of myself. I value our bond of motherhood very much, but I would love to find common ground beyond that so that our friendships might endure beyond this stage with our little ones. I think that starts with me worrying less about looking like the perfect mom all the time, and just being my imperfect self.